Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Gospel According to Herb Caen

Herb Caen, the late newspaper columnist (who wrote for The San Francisco Chronicle and earlier for The San Francisco Examiner) was one of those people who made a difference in this world, mostly through his writing. When I picked up the morning paper, I went immediately to his daily column. A while back I reprinted here a column of his from back in April of 1991. Since it deals with an lgbtq theme, this seems like a good time to share it with you again during this Pride month.  This is one you might even  want to share with friends.

Scene: The Heavenly Real Estate Office. The Landlord is cheerily rounding up a covey of blazing comets that have skittered under Queen Casseopera's Chair. His business agent, Gabriel, enters, his Golden Trumpet in one hand and more reports from the tiny planet Earth in the other.


Landlord: (to the Comets) Come out from under there, you little scamps, before you set the whole galaxy on fire.

Gabriel: Excuse me sir. Another batch of prayergrams from your most devout Christians.

Landlord: (waving a hand) Whatever they want, Gabriel. Now where did those freaky devils get to?

Gabriel: Yes sir, they want you to evict ten percent of your tenants down there. (Raising his Golden Trumpet) I've never attempted a partial eviction. Shall I try?

Landlord: (looking up) What ten percent, Gabriel?

Gabriel: The gays, sir. Your devout Christians say they've done their utmost to keep them out of their schools, their offices, their churches, and their lives, but with little success. So their prayergrams ask you to remove them from the face of your Earth.

Landlord: To me Gabriel, that doesn't sound very Christian. I thought they were supposed to love their neighbors.

Gabriel: Oh they do sir, if their neighbors are of the same color, economic bracket, and sexual orientation.

Landlord: But what harm do these gay people do?

Gabriel: I'm afraid you're not seeing the big picture, sir. Gays simply don't fit into your grand design. You know, two by two, male and female? Generation after generation? The fact of the matter is that gays simply don't procreate.

Landlord: I thought there was enough procreation down there already.


Gabriel: And they commit unspeakable acts.

Landlord: Murder? Torture? Paving over my mountain meadows?

Gabriel: Unspeakable sexual acts, sir.

Landlord: Ah, you mean they express their love for each other in different ways.

Gabriel: (annoyed) Really sir! If these people were automobiles, they'd be recalled in a nonce. They're clearly defective.

Landlord: (frowning) Defective, Gabriel?

Gabriel: Exactly sir. Some essential part if missing; some vital drive is malfunctioning. Bungled wiring – a loose screw...who knows?


Landlord: But clearly they're examples of shoddy workmanship?

Gabriel: Oh definitely sir. And they certainly don't deserve to clutter up your little blue-green jewel of a planet a minute longer. (Raising his Golden Trumpet again) Shall I evict them now?

Landlord: (slowly) And who made these imperfect products, Gabriel?

Gabriel: Why you did of course, but. . .(he lowers his trumpet in sudden consternation) Good You sir. I didn't mean to blaspheme. You will forgive them then?

Landlord: (smiling) A wise philosopher said long ago Gabriel that if I made sinners, it is not I who should forgive them, but they who should forgive me.

Gabriel: Well, I'm sure the gays will be glad to hear of your tolerance and generosity, sir.

Landlord: The gays? I was talking about my most devout Christians.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The other Harvey

Whenever someone makes a mention of "Harvey" within the lgbtq community, most assume the reference is to Harvey Milk, but there is another great one:  Harvey Fierstein.  You might remember him from a classic episode of Cheers, or from his roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Garbo Talks, or The Year Without a Santa Claus, but for me he will always be Arnold Beckoff from Torch Song Trilogy and Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.



Fierstein is much more than a fine actor though.  He is also a voice actor, occasional columnist, and a playwright, and was one of the first openly gay celebrities in the country and put a face on the lgbtq community. 



His Torch Song Trilogy gives a portrait of gay life, for those who don't really have a clue.  He brought the performance to both the stage and to film and wasn't afraid to show two men in a loving committed relationship.  (Even though this blog is NOT about me, I should mention that the movie version of Torch Song is one of my all time favorites)!

By being visible, even if it might have held back his career, Harvey Fierstein has made a difference.  He continues to bring us joy and pride too with every single performance.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The non-gay supporters

With huge celebrations over the weekend in New York City, Nashville, Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago, and many other cities, the thing that warmed my heart the most was seeing so many non-gay elected officials out there being supportive.

This man, David Chiu, is the representative for half of San Francisco in the California State Assembly. I hope someday we see him in higher office - he does so much for so many. Look at the joy on his face as he walks up Market Street yesterday in San Francisco's parade!

It's nice to see the openly lgbtq politicians marching in parades. Remember when there were none? San Francisco certainly had a lot of gay and bisexual public servants in their parade this year, but the non-gay list was quite impressive too. California's Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom was in San Francisco's parade yesterday as well.  Remember when he got the ball rolling for marriage equality back in 2004?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a marcher this year too.  He was at Toronto's event and has been pictured wearing rainbow socks and with a temporary rainbow tattoo on his cheek.  (He has also marched in Vancouver Pride in the past).

One of the significant things about Pride is the celebration of unity, so the participation of our elected non-gay sisters and brothers is certainly important and seeing folks like Chiu, Newsom, and Trudeau is a great thing indeed.  It also warms my heart to see Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (who by the way is the first openly gay person to be elected to that position there) walking in that city's parade with his husband!   

Friday, June 23, 2017

Can I interest you in a donut?

June is the month for LGBTQ Pride, largely because that was the month of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in New York.  Most know about The Stonewall Inn and the history behind it, but can I interest you in a donut?  What many claim was the first lgbtq uprising in the United States occurred ten years before Stonewall at Cooper Donuts in Los Angeles.

How about the Dewey’s Lunch Counter sit-in back in Philadelphia in 1965? That too was before Stonewall. The Compton's Cafeteria Riot occurred the following year in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.  Again before Stonewall, yet that is the one most folks know about.  There have been other incidents where the lgbtq community stood up and fought back - some famous and some not as well known.

The parades and marches and celebrations during Pride Month every year (and in some places at other times) remember our history and bring us together to see that we continue down the path of equality, fairness, and justice.  This is the weekend of some of the largest celebrations and many of you may be attending a parade.  One of my favorite events every year is the TransMarch in San Francisco and today is the day.  All the details are at http://www.transmarch.org/ including pictures from past events.  The two day celebration in San Francisco is Saturday and Sunday with the annual parade taking place on Sunday morning.  Go to http://www.sfpride.org/ for details of that.  It's a huge event in New York City of course and https://www.nycpride.org/ tell you all you need to know.  Big things have been going on all month in Toronto and this weekend wraps it all up with their parade on Sunday.  All you need to know about them is at http://www.pridetoronto.com/

Of course there is still more of Pride Month, and we'll continue telling you about it here.  Do feel free to share some information about your neck-of-the-woods in the comments section below!  If you aren't able to attend any of them, at least at a donut in remembrance of the LA uprising at Cooper Donuts.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Adam's pictures

The Pride Celebrations each June, the rainbow flag, and The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt are all things that make a visible difference.  Who doesn't recognize panels of The Quilt when you see them, or the rainbow flag?  Well, the NoH8 Campaign is another example.  Photographer Adam Bouska created this visual program along with partner Jeff Parshley, back in 2009 in response to California's Proposition 8, the ballot proposition opposing same-sex marriage.

Openly gay Bouska has really made a difference taking pictures of thousands in the past eight years.  I remember seeing a friend at work with the NoH8 on his cheek.  It made an immediate impact on me.  There is something very empowering seeing your favorite celebrities, including many non-gay people, in these poses with the duct tape and the NoH8 lettering. 

Our lgbtq community is fortunate to have so many great leaders.  There just aren't enough days in the month to mention everyone, but I encourage you to mention some others for me, using the comments section below.

If you want to keep up with Adam Bouska's NoH8 pictures, check out their website at http://www.noh8campaign.com/ - you can donate money to this great campaign through their website too.  (I love looking through all the pictures).  Adam makes a difference in many other ways as well.  I really appreciate all of his positive and encouraging tweets.  You can keep up with him at his website http://www.adambouska.com/


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lance makes a difference every day

Who hasn't heard of Lance Bass?  He's a pop singer, a dancer, actor, producer, radio and tv personality, author, and activist. He might not have started out to be all those things, but over time, they have developed.  He is also making a huge difference for the lgbtq community.

By being openly gay, Lance is another person showing the world that gay people want the same things as everyone else:  respect, equality, and freedom from hate.  Every time he says "my husband and I," he is making a difference.  The wedding of Lance and his spouse Michael Turchin (pictured above), back in 2014 was recorded and shown on cable tv.  Sometimes just being yourself is all it takes.

Now I have spoken many times about the importance of being open and honest, and it is my hope that one day closets will again be only for clothing, but let me be very clear.  I do not wish to see anyone in danger.  There are still times when some need to remain in the closet for their own safety, and that should be respected.

So much talent in this guy!  Seriously.  I love his talk show appearances.  He always speaks his mind.  Glad he has several regular gigs and was happy to just see him with best friend Joey Fatone on

$100,000 Pyramid.

I've seen Lance at a couple of different lgbtq events, but he is also making a difference in other areas as well.  He's done telethons for various causes, been an active supporter for animal rights, and is also involved with the Environmental Media Association.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We need to know our history

Hearing a story this week about someone who wasn't quite sure who Marsha P. Johnson was, I knew I had to write something here.  (A random person on the street had described her to a friend of mine saying "Oh! Is she the one who threw the first bottle at Stonehenge?"  Um.  No).

Marsha P. Johnson was an activist in New York City from the 60s to the 90s. Co-founder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, Marsha was also a visible presence at protests and marches and at the same time was a mother figure to young trans women. Facing ridicule, bullying, and harassment, Marsha did not yield from being her true self, and in doing so made a huge difference. (The middle initial P, according to her was Pay it No Mind). 

Many of us are aware of those who make a difference in the town where we live, but folks in other places do things that lead to a better life for us all.  Whether you are from New Jersey where Marsha was born, New York where she became known, or the other side of the earth, it's important to know that things she did, made a difference. 

Although the police report her death as suicide, there is much evidence to suggest that her death was as a result of a hate crime.  As part of her legacy, we should all pledge to do everything possible to end the plague of hate crimes against our trans sisters and brothers.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The man behind the Quilt

If you know about The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, the man you can thank for it is Cleve Jones.  Along with Marcus Conant, Frank Jacobson and Richard Keller, Jones also created the Kaposi's Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation, which later became the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The tv program you enjoyed showing lgbtq history (When We Rise), was based on a book by Jones "When We Rise: My Life in the Movement."

Close friends over the years with the late rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker, Cleve Jones might not be a name you recognize and his face might not be familiar, but he has been an lgbtq and HIV activist most of his life.  The stories he has are a powerful picture of how far we have come.  Cleve Jones knew Harvey Milk, and the seeds of activism were probably planted back then.  He has been a giant in the lgbtq community ever since.  In addition, Cleve has been a Community and Political Coordinator with a major hospitality workers’ labor union for the past twelve years.


With over 48,000 3’ x 6’ panels, the story of The Quilt, is a fascinating one.  You can learn more about it, and even donate in support, at http://www.aidsquilt.org/

Cleve Jones is not someone I know well - I used to see him at events or walking around the neighborhood, but I certainly respect and admire all he has done, and so am pleased to mention him here during Pride Month.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Even small towns have gay people

Making a difference doesn't mean you have to be highly visible or become famous.  After living most of my life in large cities, I know live in a relatively small town where two woman have done something really important.  As many of you know, I don't write here about private citizens, except in cases where there has already been publicity, so I won't mention these ladies by name, but they have done a tremendous service to the lgbt community here in this part of Arizona.

In large cities, it's easier to meet other lgbt folks than in small towns.  Networking is important though, so this lesbian couple began an internet presence which they administer and where dozens have now connected to share common interests and talk about lgbt issues.  That is a huge thing for folks who may feel isolated.  Growing up gay and thinking you are all alone can be difficult, but feeling alone can be just as hard when you are an adult.
(This by the way is something folks can do pretty much anywhere using facebook or yahoo or various other platforms.  Once you start a group, invite those you know, and suggest that each of them send out invitations as well.  You'd be surprised how easy this can be).

Now the couple who began this group, didn't leave it just as an online resource.  They have arranged potluck summers, a holiday party, and even a picnic in the park.  They also share lgbt news with the group and urge the others to do the same.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender residents of the area may have felt all alone in the past, but now there is a connection thanks to two women who cared - two women who made a difference.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Randy was first

Back in the late 70s, when I lived in San Francisco, I met a television reporter named Randy Shilts.  A major magazine in a brief mention, said he was the first openly gay television news reporter.  I remember saying to him, "I've always been openly gay, so what made you the first?"  Regardless of who was actually first, Randy was covering things that nobody else was. 

After leaving the public tv station where he had been working, Randy went on to the major local newspaper, where he again paid more attention to lgbt issues, than any other reporter.  Books followed.  He gave us only three, but three important ones:  Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, and The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk.

He wanted to write more.  Homosexuality in the Roman Catholic Church was to have been examined in his next book, but AIDS claimed his life at the young age of 42, before he was able to get to that.

I've written here about Randy Shilts before, and you may think it odd that I bring him up so much.  We knew each other, but never became close.  Randy made a difference though.  He brought us news we needed to hear.  He talked about HIV/AIDS when nobody else was.  Although there is some controversy, especially when he called for the closure of gay bathhouses, Randy continued to dig up the facts and report them to us.  He might not be recognized by everyone, but I am thrilled that he was one of the first to receive a plaque on San Francisco's Rainbow Honor Walk.

Thanks for the reports and the books Randy.  Thanks for making a difference!


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Phyllis

You cannot talk about lgbtq heroes without mentioning this lady, Phyllis Lyon.  A former journalist, Phyllis met another incredible woman, Del Martin some 64 years ago, and together they made a lot of history.

The two women were active in the National Organization for Women, Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club (San Francisco), and Old Lesbians Organizing for Change.  They also formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual.  With six other gay women, they formed the Daughters of Bilitis way back in 1955.  This was way before equal rights were being talked about anywhere and it was the first national lesbian organization in the US.

Phyllis spent over fifty years with Del, and then in 2004, they married when San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Six months later that marriage was voided by the California Supreme Court but there was more legal fighting to come.  That same court legalized same-sex marriage four years later, and in the first same-sex wedding to take place in San Francisco after that ruling, Phyllis and Del again exchanged vows.  Sadly, Del passed away two months later.

Phyllis Lyon has continued the fight.  Proposition 8 took away same-sex marriage for a short time, but the courts finally made same-sex marriage legal again in California and I will always remember that day.  I was in the San Francisco City Hall rotunda awaiting the announcement with a huge crowd gathered, and down the grand staircase came Phyllis Lyon with the Lt Governor on one arm and the Mayor of San Francisco on the other.  I felt sad that her wife couldn't have been there with her.

This fall Phyllis turns 93.  I'll be she is a bit amazed at how much progress we have made in her lifetime, much of which came about thanks to her dedicated work.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's all about the music

It's been said that gay people only like to party and have sex. WRONG!  The lgbtq community is as varied as any group, and generalities are certainly not going to work here, but for many there was a time when the music and the clubs were terribly important.  As equality slowly becomes the norm, the party atmosphere isn't as important.

There was certainly a time when you had to hid if you were gay.  (In some places sadly, that is still true).  Going to gay bars and clubs was a release, a way to unwind.  It was also where you could meet other lgbtq people.  This was important since you certainly couldn't be that open in school or at work.  Just was the clubs being important for socializing, so was the music.  In keeping with Pride month, I put together a top 25 list of lgbtq anthems -- 25: Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) - Abba, 24: Same Love - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, 23: Over the Rainbow - Judy Garland, 22: Ice Cream Truck - Cazwell, 21: Believe - Cher, 20: The Night I Fell in Love - Pet Shop Boys, 19: If I Had You - Adam Lambert, 18: Don't Leave Me This Way - Thelma Houston, 17: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) - Sylvester, 16: True Trans Soul Rebel - Against Me, 15: Tainted Love - Imelda May, 14: Born this Way - Lady Gaga, 13: No More Tears - Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer, 12: Express Yourself - Madonna, 11: True Colors - Cindi Lauper, 10: Take Me Or Leave Me - Rent, 9: It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls, 8: Constant Craving - kd lang, 7: YMCA - The Village People, and a favorite of mine 6: Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other - Willie Nelson.  The top five -- 5: Your Song - Elton John, 4: I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor, 3: I Am What I Am - John Barrowman, 2: Raise Your Glass - Pink, and 1: I’m Coming Out - Diana Ross.

Now while you spend your day humming these tunes, remember that it really isn't all about the music.  There are important matters in life and those same things are true for the lgbtq community, but these songs (and so many others) were an outlet in days when the closet was a necessity for so many.

Monday, June 12, 2017

It happened in Orlando

It happened in Orlando, Florida.  It could have been anywhere.  It happened at the Pulse nightclub there.  It happened one year ago today - an act of hate claiming 49 innocent lives.  There were another 53 people injured.  It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.  It happened, and we should learn from it.  It happened and we should never forget.

Since that horrible night a year ago, how much have we done to see that violence like this never again happens?  How many have stood up and said "Enough!"  How many have walked in solidarity with their lgbtq sisters and brothers and taken a stand against hate?

One year later, is the massacre in Orlando still on people's minds?  One year ago do you remember much about that night?  One year later do you care about this hateful act?  I wrote here day after day last year, because I thought it was important.  I still think it is so important that at the very top of my blog page, there is a constant reminder of that night in Orlando.  Remember that night.

Remember each of the people too.  These were human beings.  Their lives were snatched from them by hate.  Remember their names.  Remember Stanley Almodovar III, Amanda Alvear, Oscar A Aracena-Montero, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Antonio Davon Brown, Darryl Roman Burt II, Angel L. Candelario-Padro, Juan Chevez-Martinez, Luis Daniel Conde, Cory James Connell, Tevin Eugene Crosby, Deonka Deidra Drayton, Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Mercedez Marisol Flores, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, Juan Ramon Guerrero, Paul Terrell Henry, Frank Hernandez, Miguel Angel Honorato, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason Benjamin Josaphat, Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, Christopher Andrew Leinonen, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, Kimberly Morris, Akyra Monet Murray, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, Joel Rayon Paniagua, Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, Enrique L. Rios, Jr., Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, Edward Sotomayor Jr., Shane Evan Tomlinson, Martin Benitez Torres, Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, Luis S. Vielma, Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, Jerald Arthur Wright.

Yesterday's Resist March and Equality March was a good step, but we need to do more.  There have been some backward steps in the past months, and we can't afford that.  We should all stand up together and say no to hate - ALL hate.  It happened before.  It can happen again.  Let's say no more!  Let us resist the negativity and remind everyone of the power of love!  Those 49 in Orlando had their lived cut short.  Let us hold them on our hearts, and honor them with action.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Equality March for Unity and Pride

There are so many special events tied to LGBT Pride Month, but a very important one comes up this Sunday and it's happening worldwide.  The Equality March for Unity and Pride is a truly grassroots movement with small and large marches springing up all over, mobilizing the diverse LGBTQ communities to stand up against hate and to continue demanding full equality for everyone.

The co-chairs for this huge undertaking are Anika Simpson, Ashley Smith, Catalina Velasquez, David Bruinooge, Elle Hearns, José L. Plaza, Lydia X. Z. Brown, Lynnette McFadzen, Nicole Murray Ramirez, Sean Coleman, Sue Doster, and Thomas Tonatiuh Lopez.  Of course there are organizers in so many communities, it would be impossible to list them all. 

The times vary and not every single city has an event.  Click HERE to find information for any events close to you, and then go and join in.  Nothing happening in your town?  Head out to the nearest place where there is an Equality March, or organize something in your city yourself.  (Check for necessary permits.  A simple gathering in a park or on private property is one of the simplest things to organize).  Let people know about it via facebook and twitter.  For more information about organizing and to add your event to the list, click HERE.

The huge event in Washington, DC begins at 17th St NW and I St NW at 10am on June 11th.  To register for that one, click HERE.  It's always energizing to be at a Washington march!

I hope many of you will be able to participate in Equality March this Sunday!  Oh and there are also shirts available at http://store.equalitymarch2017.com/

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Rise

This 23-year-old Canadian is one of my heroes - someone who truly makes a difference, and has touched so many lives, just in a few short years.  His name is Justin Preston and he's a sought after public Speaker, an ambassador for Kids Help Phone, and the creator of Rise Against Bullying.

A few years ago, I read that that 85% of LGBT students had reported being verbally harassed and 40% reported being physically harassed.   Even worse, nearly 20% reported being physically assaulted at school because of their sexual orientation.  Justin was one of those who was harassed.  Hearing him describe it, it sounds pretty awful, but somehow he mustered the strength to rise up and do something - not only for himself, but for everyone. 

Now, I've not actually met Justin, but I sure would like to.  He gives back and is a hero to so many.  Isn't that what life is all about?  As I read about his many projects, I am filled with joy that so many people have been helped because of Justin's work.  You may have seen him on tv or read one of numerous articles about him, but during Pride Month, I wanted to mention him here as well.

You can learn more about Kids Help Phone HERE, and more about Rise Against Bullying at http://www.riseagainstbullying.ca/ (there's a facebook page too, just click HERE).  I urge you to go there and find out more about Justin and his important work.  Click HERE to make a donation too.  Help make a difference!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Gilbert's Rainbow

Gilbert Baker has been written about before in this blog.  He certainly made a difference in this world.  Back in April when he passed away, not only did I write about him, but his passing was reported on the tv network newscasts.  The rainbow flag that he created gives hope to people all around the world!

Gilbert probably would have chuckled at the birthday remembrance he received a few days ago from Google.  The Google Doodle honoring him that they released, was colorful and clever.

More tributes are to come.  Tomorrow night, June 8th there will be a Celebration of Life from 7pm to 8:30 at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, with a reception to follow.  The other coast, where Gilbert spent his last years, takes over next week, with a Gilbert Baker Memorial Rally and March on Christopher Street at Stonewall in New York City.  That will be on Wednesday, June 14th from 6 to 9pm.  The Mayor of Key West, Florida has proclaimed the next day, June 15th to be Gilbert Baker Day in Key West.

It was a joy for me to work with Gilbert Baker a number of years ago, and I will always be grateful for this man who really gave back and made a difference.  With every waving rainbow flag, take a moment, and think of Gilbert.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

all kinds of heroes

The Pride Celebrations of the LGBT communities all around the world are happy and joyous, in part - but they are also rallies for justice and continuations of the fight for equality.  Along the way there have been many heroes.  In this blog, I write about making a difference, and during Pride Month this year I am zooming on the lgbt community all month.  There have been numerous leaders over the years, a couple of whom I have already mentioned here.  Not all of the lgbt heroes identify as lgbt.  There are numerous non-gay lgbt allies who have made an incredible difference.

These days we know more and more names because folks are less fearful of the gay, bisexual, or transgender label.  Many celebrities are coming out, and that in itself makes a difference, with more visibility.  More people are coming out to family and friends too.  Think for a moment.  How many people do you know who are lgbt?

The heroes?  Well there are certainly too many to write about in just one short month, but they include Cleve Jones, Phyllis Lyon, Dan Choi, Harvey Milk, Gavin Newsom, Dustin Lance Black, Barbara Gittings, Neil Giuliano, Gilbert Baker, and Vic Basile. Also Troy Perry, Bayard Rustin, Adam Bouska, José Sarria, Chaz Bono, Blake Brockington, Ryan Cassata, Dan Savage, and Cecilia Chung.  The list can go on and on, and hopefully more and more folks will come forward and fight for what is right - equality for all.
Please do feel free to share your lgbt Pride stories.  What is the most moving experience you have ever had.  Who are your heroes?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Thanks Ellen

Just over a month ago, we celebrated "The Puppy Episode" of Ellen, the groundbreaking sitcom on abc-tv.  I have written here a number of time about its star Ellen DeGeneres, who inspired me to begin writing a daily kindness blog and who put a face on the lgbt community.  Yes there had been other out lgbt celebrities, but Ellen was the girl-next-door and showed the world that gay people are just...well, just people.

Writing here about lgbt topics during the LGBT Pride Month, I just had to say something about Ellen once again.  She's one of my heroes!  I have actually enjoyed her since the very first time I saw her with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, way back in the 80s, but now I don't just love her as a performer, I admire and respect all that she does for the the lgbt community and for the world.

Her mom, Betty DeGeneres is pretty great too.  I had the great privilege of meeting Betty, and I hope to someday meet Ellen too.  Betty is an active member of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Project.  She authored two books about Ellen's coming out and their relationship: Love, Ellen: A Mother Daughter Journey and Just a Mom.

Every single time Ellen says "my wife," I smile.  It wasn't that long ago when we simply wouldn't hear a woman refer to another woman as her wife, even if they were gay.  It just wasn't said.  On her talk show, Ellen entertains, but she is quick to hit the political button when necessary and she won't shy away from lgbt issues.

One more things though - Ellen is a gay woman who has done so much for the lgbt community, but she does wonderful things for every community.  The people she honors on her program are all kinds of neighborhood heroes, and that Ellen showcases these individuals, I think makes her even more of a hero.  Thanks Ellen!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Jason

How appropriate it is that AIDS LifeCycle takes place during LGBT Pride Month and that Jason Villalobos is there on his bike once again, making the trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I first met Jason back in 2009 when he made an impassioned speech at an Save ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) event on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. Since then I have had the great pleasure f getting to know him and to see close up his dedication to HIV/AIDS awareness and advocacy and other important lgbt issues. I learned instantly that Jason's heart is the biggest of anyone you will ever meet. I know this blog is not about me, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that he cares so much about people, that he called me just this week, because he was concerned about me.

As you read this, Jason has probably packed and is ready to head up to the Cow Palace in Daly City to hop on his bike and do what I believe is his seventh AIDS Walk.  It is his inspiration that keeps me writing this blog and his determination that gets me out to AIDS Walk each summer to do my little bit in this fight for a cure.  I'm thrilled that he made his goal this year.  You can push his total even higher too - just click HERE to donate.

I'm one of the lucky ones who has been able to spend time with many different lgbt heroes.  Many of those lgbt superstars are non-gay too - yes, our allies can make a huge difference.  Each person has contributed in different ways.  We still have a long way to go though.  During his inaugural address on January 21, 2013, President Barack Obama said "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well." 

Jason Villalobos shines as a bright light, not only for HIV/AIDS education and awareness, but in the struggle for all lgbt people to be treated equally.  Jason is my first Pride Month hero, and as I said yesterday, I will be writing about lgbt matters all month long, because lgbt matters!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Whole Month

Looking back, I discovered that the word "gay" or "lgbt" comes up in many of my blog entries, but certainly not all of them.  When I began this many years ago, Pam Spaulding and a number of others, regularly blogged about lgbt issues, and I wanted to speak here more generally about folks making a difference.  This month though, for the first time, I am going to change my focus and write something connected to lgbt matters each day.  June is lgbt Pride Month, and so it seems like an appropriate thing to do.  As always, your comments below are most welcome.

I might reprint a few of my previous entries - the Herb Caen one and another about Harvey Milk come to mind, and I might update on some lgbt news, but in keeping with our theme, I really want to focus on some heroes.  So, while I welcome your comments, I hope for some suggestions too.

I suspect that someone will object to an all-lgbt month here in this space, but to that I will say the same thing I wrote here back on July 1, 2013:  "Unfortunately there are a lot of folks who don't get it.  When people complain about so much coverage of 'gay news' they forget that what there is the rest of the time is coverage of everything else.  LGBT people are still discriminated against more than any other group (especially the transgender part of that) and until that discrimination is gone, a light most shine into that darkness."

Get ready for a whole month of light!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You are a child of the universe

Last night I kept hearing the words of this poem in my mind, and so I decided to write about it today - The Desiderata. Early in 1972, Les Crane's spoken-word recording of this poem (a poem with a very confused history, but I won't go into that), peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart. I can still remember listening to it over and over back when I lived in Nashville. As you all know though, this is NOT about me.

The words are quite inspirational. "As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons." Who can argue with that? "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." Certainly this is another good thought. The poem is full of them! The words - the ideas - the list of things to be desired (the actual translation of desiderata) here are so uplifting!

My favorite part of the poem, is a section that was used as a refrain in the recording: "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Welcoming

One of the most wonderful things we can experience is the feeling of belonging - the feeling that we are truly welcome.  The first day at a new school or a new job or a visit to a church you have never been to before or even a family reunion where most of the relatives are distant ones that you don't know, all have something in common.  You can feel alone and uncomfortable, like you don't belong there.  There are many other situations where you can experience the same feeling.  It isn't nice at all.  Churches will sometimes say they are "welcoming," but are they really?  Do they make you feel comfortable?  Do people say hello and introduce themselves and make any kind of effort to make you feel welcome?
 
Did you ever go to a bar or restaurant where it seemed that everyone was a regular and that you were the odd one?  The employees were super friendly to all of them, but hardly even acknowledged that you were there.  Does that make you want to come back?  Of course not!  It is an easy thing to change though.  Making people feel welcome just involves caring and showing it.  Smile.  Be friendly.  Introduce yourself.  Make the visitor or the newcomer feel that they belong there.

I was thinking back this morning to a church event a few years ago that was for clergy of a particular race.  There had been an open invitation to the worship service and so I went, only to be shunned the whole time I was there.  I was the wrong race and I wasn't clergy, so what was I doing there? 

The opposite happened several times last year though when I attended various events sponsored by the transgender community.  I was made to feel totally welcome.  How wonderful that was!
 
We all make a difference in the lives of others when we show them a friendly and welcoming attitude.  Try it!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Ask what you can do for your country

One hundred years ago on this date, the man who would become the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born. How fitting and proper it is that today also happens to be Memorial Day, a federal holiday on which we remember the women and men who died while serving in our country's armed forces. Fitting because whenever I think of Kennedy, I think of giving back and the ultimate service.

JFK gave us encouragement to give back and is one of the factors in my decision to begin this blog years ago. I love the idea of contributing, and Kennedy was such a good cheerleader for that - I only hope I can do a tiny bit of what he did in reminding folks that we are not alone, and it is important to think about others.

In one of his first acts as President, Kennedy asked Congress to create the Peace Corps and his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, became its first director. I'm sure he would be proud of his creation.

Kennedy also pushed us to go further in space exploration, he pushed our cooperation with other countries, and in his most famous speech, he pushed us all when he said "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Today, I'll be thinking of all those women and men who gave their lives in active duty, and I'll be thinking of our great President who encouraged us along the way, and who too paid the ultimate price.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Before you kick it

I've always felt that having goals is a good thing. Lately I hear more and more people talk about their bucket lists. Are they really such a good idea though? Some people say we are rushing death (the term "bucket list" coming from kicking the bucket, a popular expression meaning to die) and others say we are creating lists with difficult to fill ideas. I'm thinking though that having defined goals, can't be a bad thing.

Some folks list very simple things and some come right out of a thrill-seekers guide. What about you though - are there places you would really like to visit or people you want to meet of see perform or maybe some special things you want to do?  How about this:  don't just make a list, but include other folks.  There are organizations that help fulfill the wishes of dying people, but how about if we all did something really special before someone else passed away - a shared bucket list if you will.  I think I could really get behind that idea!

So how many of you think that is a good idea? How many of you have a bucket list of any kind? Before you kick the bucket, is there something special you want to do for others?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

it takes all kinds

We often hear it said that it takes all kinds.  Indeed it does!  I am so fortunate to know al kinds of people - people who serve, people who lead, passionate, talented, committed people, those who are seeking, those who have heard a call, innovators, givers, people who make this world so much better.  Making a difference in this world for the better, is the theme here.  All I have to do each day is look around and I find so many people and so many ideas to write about.
 
Yes, there are some who are only takers.  There are people who are more inclined to destroy than to build up.  These are not those folks who make this world so great and thankfully, these are not the majority of folks I know.
 
It takes all kinds - even the ones who don't want to contribute.  They help inspire us to do good instead of following them.  When we see bad, we are not inclined to follow it.  The positive wonderful things in our lives are the things that inspire and lead us forward.  Thanks to all of you who serve and who lead and who give!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ten Years of Blogging

Ten years!  Oh my!  It's hard to believe but I have been blogging continually now for ten years.  I do this five days a week (originally I wrote these entries on the weekend too) and for the past eight months, I have also been writing a seven-days-a-week blog about kindness. 

Yes, I still remember that this is NOT about me, but allow me a moment to thank all of your for reading both of these blogs and the odd musings from before, that this grew out of.  I appreciate you taking the time both to read and to offer your comments.

Oh and if you thought this was a goodbye message, it's not.  I'll still be writing both blogs (between the two, that's about fifty entries per month) and I hope you will continue reading.  Your comments are always welcome too, and please feel free to offer suggestions also.  Tell me about some folks that you know of who are making a difference.  Tell your friends too!

If you haven't checked out my kindness blog yet, what are you waiting for?  Click HERE and kindly share that one with your friends too!  Thanks everybody!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Are you happy?

What makes you happy?  Are there material objects that bring you happiness?  What about music or art or food?  Are you happy because of the work you do or the people you associate with or because of your hobbies or because of some great past memories? 
 
What?  I'm assuming you ARE happy.  Perhaps I should have first asked if you are.  Well, what's the answer?  Are you a happy person?  Do you share that happiness with others?  (Sharing happiness can also bring you happiness).
 
I think that happy is one of those wonderful things that is very easy to share.  If you are smiling it invites others to smile as well.  If you seem to be happy and pleasant, I'll bet you will find others picking that happiness up from you!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Never give up

On this date back in 1930, not far from where years later I would be born, Harvey Bernard Milk came into this world. His early years were on Long Island, and even after a stint in the Navy, Harvey returned to Long Island to teach. We remember him more for the short time he spent in San Francisco, and for the encouraging words he spoke, and for his tragic death.

I've written here a lot about Harvey - more than any other person. People need to know who this man was and what he did. His famous "Hope speech" is so often quoted, but there was much more encouragement than that. In a taped message that wasn't heard until after his assassination, he urged gay people to come out. "I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they'll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects ... I hope that every professional gay will say 'enough', come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help."

Today is designated as a "day of special significance" for public schools in California, after the legislature there in 2009, passed a bill, which Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger signed. Special observances will take place today, not only in classrooms, but at events all around that state, particularly in San Francisco. Hopefully folks in other parts of the country will remember Harvey Milk as well. His political career was short and he didn't accomplish many of the things he would have, but he became a symbol - an icon. He gave us hope, and he continues to, 39 years after his death.

Once, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, Harvey said "If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I'd be walking backward - and I don't want to walk backward."

Harvey Milk led us forward. I recall those days in San Francisco, and the energy and the enthusiasm still exists. There may be difficult moments and our country may regret some political decisions, but we must continue to move forward and never give up. Recalling a portion of Harvey's most famous speech, "The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up." Let's remember Harvey, and never give up!

Friday, May 19, 2017

who

Who makes a difference in your life?  What person comes to mind when you think of love and kindness?  Who is changing the world for the better? 

One of the things I write about here every day is how we ALL can make a difference, and I hope that same of the things we have said have encouraged you.  I also sometimes write about specific people who are doing great things for our communities and our world.  Sometimes I stumble across inspiring stories or hear something in the media, and sometimes folks suggest names of people they think are making a difference.  Today I am asking the big "who" question because I would love for you to give me some of those suggestions.

Down below there is a place for comments, and while you are always welcome to say something there, today I hope you will help me out and tell me about someone you know who is a hometown hero.  Who is making a difference in your neighborhood?  Who is making a difference in our world?  Let's hear from you!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Life After Birth

This is one of those stories that circulates and nobody knows who the author is. I've posted before things that I didn't write, and I want to do it again today because this one can really make you think. This one is about faith -

In a mother's womb were two babies. One asked the other: "Do you believe in life after delivery?"

The other replies, "Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later."

"Nonsense," says the other. "There is no life after delivery. What would that life be?"

"I don't know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths."

The other says "This is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous. The umbilical cord supplies nutrition. Life after delivery is to be excluded. The umbilical cord is too short."

"I think there is something and maybe it's different than it is here."

"No one has ever come back from there. Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere."

"Well, I don't know," says the other, "but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us."


"Mother??! You believe in mother? Where is she now?"

"She is all around us. It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world."

"I don't see her, so it's only logical that she doesn't exist."

To which the other replied, "sometimes when you're in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her." I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality."


As I said at the beginning, these words are not mine, but I wanted to share this beautiful perspective on faith with you. Of course we all know that there is indeed life after delivery from the womb. How many of you believe in life after delivery from our earthly journey?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grassroots campaigns work

Do you like what is going on in Washington, DC these days?  Are you happy with the workings in your own state or local governments?  How many of you can name your mayor or your representatives in Congress?  When things are going like the people want them to, and when justice and equality fly out the window, it's time to get involved!

I actually think it is ALWAYS good to be involved.  Congress this week is voting on a health care act, and I think every single American should be concerned.  Turn on the evening tv news or pick up the morning newspaper.  Stay aware, and then get involved.

It's amazing what a simple grassroots campaign can do.  Seriously.  The folks who say "You can't fight City Hall" are wrong.  You can write letters, send emails, make phone calls and you can make a difference.  To begin though, you need to know what you are doing.  Inform yourself.  A good way to find out about government bodies, is to look at their websites.  Head on down to your local city hall and see the city council in action.  Know about it, and then do something.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Boy and the Starfish

All good stories begin with "Once upon a time," right? Well here's one, that was adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977). You might find it reminding you of a similar story I recently told about a dog, and the message is really the same, so read on.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a little boy, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" said the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the boy replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

Indeed. It made a difference for every single starfish the boy threw into the water. The message this morning is clear, and it's one I have I shared over and over. WE can make a difference. WE can be superheroes. WE can do some pretty incredible things. If we throw our hand up in surrender and don't even try to make this a better world, of course we won't be giving back, but each of us can and should give back in our own way. If it seems overwhelming and that our contributions won't make a bit of difference, remember the story of the boy and the starfish!